Born: November 7, 1922 Died: April 27, 1999
A virtuoso on the trumpet, Al Hirt was often "overqualified" for the Dixieland and pop music that he performed. He studied classical trumpet at the Cincinnati Conservatory (1940-1943) and was influenced by the playing of Harry James. He freelanced in swing bands (including both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Ray McKinley) before returning to New Orleans in the late '40s and becoming involved in the Dixieland movement. He teamed up with clarinetist Pete Fountain on an occasional basis from 1955 on, and became famous by the end of the decade. An outstanding technician with a wide range, along with a propensity for playing far too many notes, Hirt had some instrumental pop hits in the 1960s. He also recorded swing and country music, but mostly stuck to Dixieland in his live performances. He remained a household name throughout his career, although one often feels that he could have done so much more with his talent. Hirt's early Audiofidelity recordings (1958-1960) and collaborations with Fountain are the most rewarding of his long career; he died at his home in New Orleans on April 27, 1999.